Govt wants Yunus to step down ''temporarily'' as GB chief

Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 0:00 [IST]
 

Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Feb 15 (PTI) The government wants NobelLaureate Muhammad Yunus to temporarily "stay away" as head ofthe Grameen Bank, but he has rejected it amid a review of thefunctioning of the institution, Bangladesh Finance MinisterAMA Muhith said today.

"We had requested him to temporarily stay away fromGrameen Bank, but he rejected the proposal, saying that couldcause collapse of the institution at the moment," Muhith wasquoted as saying by the BBC Bangla service.

Muhith said the government was yet to take anydecision about Yunu�s current position as the bank�s managingdirector.

"But I think it would have been better for him (Yunus)had he stayed away for sometime as the review is underway onthe Grameen Bank transaction," Muhith said in an interviewyesterday.

In January, the government constituted a five-memberexpert committee to "review" the transactions of the Bank.

The minister also hinted that Yunu�s future as thechief of the Bank might be decided by a newly constitutedboard after the finding of the "review committee".

Even as he appreciated Yunus'' efforts for hispioneering role in spearheading the microcredit campaign, theminister said "he cannot stay for life as its chief� despitethe special status of the institution as a �statutory body�.

In a related development, a court in northwesternPabna today summoned Yunus on May 18 on a case filed by aformer official of his Bank for sending an "inflated phonebill".

70-year-old economist won the Nobel Peace Prize alongwith his Grameen Bank in 2006 for his microcredit banking inBangladesh. His legal woes in Bangladesh have led tospeculation -- denied by the government -- that they stem frompersonal differences with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

A committee was earlier set up to review the Bank''sworking amid allegation of mishandling of funds.

A Grameen Bank spokeswoman said the institution was''governed by the Grameen Bank Ordinance, 1983" under which theboard of the Grameen Bank has autonomous power to manage thebank and make all policies, and rules.

As per the ordinance, "the government owns 25 per centof the bank. Effectively though the government has 3.5 percent of the ownership of Grameen Bank since the government hasnot put additional money in, while the poor people''s share inthe bank has been going up steadily. They are the owners ofthe bank, and share in its profits," she said.

An earlier documentary and subsequent media reportshave alleged that Yunus had diverted USD 100 million meant formicrocredit lending of the Bank to its sister venture GrameenKalyan, also a non-profit welfare company breeching financiallaws and agreements with the donor.

Yunus has denied the allegations. The Norwegian donorearlier gave a clean chit to Yunus, saying it found noevidence of donor fund embezzlement.

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